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Assessment of Infinite-Age Bones from the Upper Thames Valley, UK, as 14C Background Standards

G T Cook, T F G Higham, P Naysmith, F Brock, S P H T Freeman, A Bayliss

Abstract


It is becoming increasingly clear that in order to generate accurate radiocarbon dates for bone collagen samples it is important to determine a sample-specific background correction to account for the greater complexity and higher number of steps in the pretreatment chemistry of this material. To provide suitable samples for the 14C community, 7 bone samples were obtained from contexts within British gravel quarries, which according to other dating techniques or stratigraphic information, should be of infinite age with respect to 14C. The bones were analyzed at the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit (ORAU) and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC) to determine their suitability. In this paper, we show that 6 of the samples were indistinguishable from background. Both institutions measured finite ages for sample 387 from Oxey Mead that were statistically indistinguishable. Further work is required to establish whether this is because the bone was intrusive and of a younger age than expected or whether it is contaminated either postdepositionally or in the laboratory. We favor the former explanation because (1) the 2 chemistry laboratories use very different pretreatment schemes, (2) collagen yields were high, and (3) the laboratories produced ages that are in good agreement. The 6 “greater than” age samples will be made available to 14C laboratories to be used as background standards.

DOI: 10.2458/azu_js_rc.v.16161


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